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POET - New Mexico Journal: Rio Vallecitos

 

I once found a smooth, round stone, and I carried it in my pocket. If I’d believed in luck, I would have carried it for luck, but all I wanted then was ballast, something dense and durable—the weight of the world. This morning, after a hard rain, a bird is singing in the ferns below the house. Little wren, my stone, I would sail you across the sky.

Last night I dreamed about a bobcat, and this morning I found one sleeping beneath the persimmon tree. I was almost close enough to touch him, when he woke, fixed me with his eyes and disappeared into a thicket. The air was damp with last night’s rain. The matted leaves cushioned my steps, and persimmons blazed in the branches of the tree like a hundred suns. I don’t know if the cat appeared because I dreamed of him, or if I dreamed of him because he was so near.

This tumor is smaller than the last one, he said. I’m going to cut it out, and then do my best to stitch you back together. He leaned forward, and pulled a blade across my leg. Smoke rose from the open wound as he cauterized the tiny veins, and while he worked, he spoke to me. Every body is a machine, he said. When they break, I fix them. But there’s an art to it, he said. We have to coax some kind of magic or luck out of the body. Some patients die, he said, and others find a way to beat the odds. That’s what I expect of you. Do you know what I’m saying, he asked? I nodded while my breath kept pace with the morphine drip. Good, he said, and he put his knee on the table for a better purchase. I watched my leg jump and fall as he jerked on the sutures. That should hold, he said, but you’re going to feel it for a while.

In western Massachusetts, a man wandered into the woods to live alone. He tried hunting, but the only animals that stood their ground, the only animals he could catch were skunks. The man was sprayed, of course, but he caught them, ate them, and dressed in a cloak of rancid pelts. When he was found, the scent was on his breath, his skin, and when I heard his story, I thought, comrade.

Near midnight, walking uphill by starlight, the ground still wet, the air brisk and moist after the storm, I was startled by a pocket of warm air. A breath from the mountain, the river, the trees? I turned to look. No, the moon.


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